Shaxi Village and Dali Old Town/Caicun

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October 5th 2012
Published: October 10th 2012
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October 1st is China's National holiday for which the majority of the country gets an entire week off. During this week, an average of 2.75 million people travel to the province we are currently in, Yunnan. For that reason, we wanted to find a nice little place to avoid the crowds for at least a couple of days.


Shaxi Village was the perfect place to do it. It's an ancient, dusty, wooden town that still survives from the millenia old Tea and Horse Trail which connected China with India and the rest of the world. This quaint little town has recently received tourism funding from the government. You can see that many renovations are being completed and there are more plans in the works uncluding a new highway which will cut at least half an hour off travel time from the two largest cities nearby.

We have seen so many of these "Old Town"s in China that you would think we are getting sick of them. This Old Town was so genuine that it was hard not to love. The heart of the community showed all over the place. Yes there was plenty of dancing at dusk as usual and lots of street food (our favourite).

The first night we were able to find accommodations at a great Youth Hostel that had signs on the door indicating no business men or high heels! Perfect! Since we hadn't booked ahead though, we could only have our room for one night and they were booked solid the rest of the week.

When we woke up the next day we were on a mission to find somewhere to stay. We checked pretty much everywhere and they were either completely booked or too expensive. That was until we came to one last little place tucked in an alley. They too had no rooms available but knew of a family nearby that sometimes rented rooms out. The helpful girl went over to inquire for us and sure enough they let us stay with them at a decent price.

The girl that helped us find the homestay kept calling them the "nature people" and remarked at how beautiful their flowers were. It was totally true. They grew lots of beautiful flowers, had a huge garden around back for growing their own vegetables, had two pig pens and a chicken coop.
Rice FieldsRice FieldsRice Fields

This is the field we rode right through on our bikes feeling the wind in our hair.

There was a big language barrier (as usual) since none of the family spoke english and we speak very little chinese but we all got along just fine. Their big courtyard home had lots of space for at least four generations plus an extra wing where we were staying. It was so gracious of them to allow us to stay with them, we hope that they understood how much it meant to us.

Tyler got pretty close with the little boy that was always running around and the old Grandma told me at one point to put more clothes on (I was wearing shorts on a cool day). By the end of the three days we spent there we were, in a way, part of the family.

Other than wander the streets of Shaxi, we also rented bikes for one of the days. We rode to a couple of close villages and walked their rustic, narrow alleys before riding back to Shaxi through the rice fields. It was amazing riding through the paddies! As the wind blows, waves flow across the rice in such a graceful way. Plus it was mostly downhill so that helped!!

Our last day in Shaxi there was a market (the last one still operating from the Tea and Horse Trail) so we obviously had to walk around and see what everyone was selling. Markets are always super entertaining. You can barter for what you want to buy or just window shop and people watch. On this particular day we found a toy that was perfect for the little guy at our homestay so we bought that and gifted him with it before catching our bus on to the next town.


Dali Old Town is an extremely popular place to visit when it isn't a holiday so you can only imagine how packed it was during the national holiday week. However, the reason it is so popular is because of the location; there is tons to do in the area. It is located right between a mountain range (the Cang Shan) and a lake and the whole town is actually on a slight slope in the direction of Erhai Lu (Ear-shaped Lake).

We had a really hard time deciding what to do. You can really easily village hop around the lake going to a different market every day of the week, or you can climb the mountains, or you can chill by the lake. Originally, we wanted to do some hiking, but the fee to get into the national park was more than we wanted to pay, it was also going to be much cooler than Tiger Leaping Gorge, so we opted out of that option. Then we considered stationing ourselves in Dali and going to a few different villages to fill our days, but we knew they would all by overcrowded. So finally we decided to go to a village on the lake and stay there for a couple of nights until the holiday week was over.


Caicun village is an extremely small fishing village right by the lake. It was a short 15 minute bus ride from Dali but an extremely different world. We had made reservations at a guesthouse beforehand since we didn't know how busy it would be and I think there was maybe one other room occupied at the same time as us. It was super quiet and just what we had been looking for. Our room was actually in a log cabin and they had a guinea pig as a pet that ended up loving the bamboo leaves Rebecca kept stuffing in the cage.

Most of the time we spent reading or walking along the lake. It was a very relaxing few days but we had to go back and stay in Dali again for one night before moving on.

DALI (again)

We stayed at the same guesthouse and were able to get a private room for less than we had paid for two dorm beds a few nights before. Prices are doubled or tripled for the national holiday week because it is considered peak season.

The staff at Lily Pad were great! And they had 4 one month old puppies just waiting to be snuggled.

The day we got back to Lily Pad we shared "family lunch" with the staff. Many of the guesthouses we stay in will offer "family" meals for a great price. The staff get fed by the house chef and as long as you let them know in advance, you can get in on a great spread of food. After our delicious lunch we did the regular catch up on emails and NFL game stats (poor Eagles lost on a last second field goal 😞 ) before heading out into the streets.

It was much less crowded than it had been a few days before and that allowed us to see more of the town.

The next morning we were off to Kunming the capital city of Yunnan which is where we are now. Kunming blog to follow, also picture will be added soon.

xoxo Ty+Becs

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